Archive for Movies

Crash! Landen’s Best Films of 2014

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words with tags , , , on December 31, 2014 by Crash! Landen

 

 

My last post of the year… and my annual proclamation of films that everyone should see. For me, it wasn’t one of the better years at the movies, but, there were still interesting movies being made. There are actually many films that I have not seen that have varying degrees of acclaim (not that my views are dictated by what critics think), so as always, this is just a list compiled from the movies that I have seen. And as always, the release dates can make things confusing, too, but I always base that on when a film is released in my little part of the world,

There were several movies that I thought about putting in the 10 spot. Anytime Terry Gilliam makes a film, I usually have room on my list for it, but Zero Theorem didn’t quite live up to what I was anticipating. It was even a little bit of a downer which isn’t typical for Gilliam. Still worth seeing… The horribly named Snowpiercer, which came out of left field, probably deserves to be here. It has a very hokey premise; one that just doesn’t add up the more one thinks about it, but still was a very pleasant sci-fi surprise. My number 10 was a science fiction film, though… Or was it?

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10. Under The Skin Scarlett Johannson starred in one of the weirder films that I’ve seen in recent memory. I think I got what the movie was trying to say for the most part, but I don’t think it has to be understood. It’s a very artsy film that has a lot of subtle moments and sequences that are left up to the viewer to comprehend them how they will. I also don’t know if I enjoyed it, either. It;s a creepy movie and that damned soundtrack didn’t help. Worth a look, though; especially if you want to see something that’s a little different.

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9. Gone Girl This one didn’t entirely add up, but it never failed to entertain. Aside from one extremely violent (and extremely unnecessary to tell the truth) scene, you might not even guess it’s a movie by director David Fincher…. Or.. Maybe you would.

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8. The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies It’s over! It’s finally over! No more   elves! No more Hobbits and Dwarves and Gollumses! Jackson will finally have to move on! What? Oh, sorry… Yeah, I liked it, but at the same time, this was a trilogy that probably could have been a one and done. The final installment was also glaring in its shortage of scenes with…. The Hobbit. You probably could have called this last one The Mad Dwarf King. It kind of was his movie… And that human guy’s movie, too… Sure wasn’t Bilbo’s movie.

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7. Birdman Slightly Kauffman-esque (as in Charley Kaufman), this is probably Keaton’s best work since– no, not ;Batman’… Did you really think I was going there? No, since Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’. Keaton is the perfect person to play this, though, given the film’s subject matter (about an actor known for playing a popular superhero trying to be taken seriously in his craft). The lovely and talented Emma Stone stands out (of a pretty good cast) as Keaton’s daughter. Just wish Alejandro González Iñárritu had not gone with beatnik style drum soundtrack.

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6. Interstellar I don’t care how many physicists helped with the ‘science’ of the film, there’s a lot here that I just have to chalk up as horseshit. Sorry. What? I just mean, I don’t believe the gravity of a  habitable planet (with no apparent nearby star to provide light and life and such) orbiting the lip of a black hole will slow time for the people on that planet, nor do I believe by dropping weight on a spacecraft being sucked into said black hole will allow you to escape. That being said and forgetting about the multiple drawn out endings, I still think this was a tremendous movie that offers more than your typical blockbuster. And it was quite dramatic, very suspenseful while the movie was unfolding for the first time. Worth seeing.

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5. Edge of Tomorrow Groundhog Day with an alien invasion. Tom Cruise has his detractors (with good reason) but his film career is unusually consistent. And I rarely say this, but I could probably handle a prequel highlighting The Angel of Verdun… But, that’s probably because of my creepy fixation on Emily Blunt… Sorry. Moving right along.

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4. The Lego Movie Silly, but funny. Liked it far more than I thought I would. Deserves to be this high on the list, despite that awful song.

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3. Godzilla Will probably make a great twin bill with Pacific Rim. Some complained that like Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’, the audience was deprived of the title character for  too much of the movie, but as a lifelong Godzilla fan I would disagree very strongly. I also would say that this is a movie  best enjoyed on the largest screen possible. The great thing that the film did was to recreate the same sort of intent that the original film presented while embracing what the character would later become (from a metaphor for atomic destruction to something benevolent towards mankind). If you love big monster movies like I do, this may even be your movie of the year.

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2. The Past A subtitled French film about a broken Iranian family.. Or something like that. It’s actually a lot more than that, as it surprised me repeatedly with its continuing revelations about the characters and plot twists. The entire cast is nothing short of brilliant. I have seen two of the actors in other films… Berenice Bejo in  the ‘silent’ film ‘The Artist’ and Tahar Rahim in the equally dazzling ‘A Prophet’, but Ali Mosaffa made it seem like I was just a fly on the wall watching ‘real’ people, as did the rest of the cast. The child actors seemed to be living the experience instead of acting in it. The ‘resolution’ in the story (if you want to call it that) was unexpected as was the meaning of the film.

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1. The Grand Budapest Hotel Not Wes Anderson’s best movie, but good enough to place first on my list. Had lots of chuckles and a few HUGE belly-laughs. Anderson has honed a very distinctive eccentric style over the years. His movies are instantly recognizable as his. It’s probably his most artistic live action film to date and you get all of the Wes Anderson regulars (including Bill Murray) along with some new notables (that hopefully will make appearances in his future films, as well). There were many critics that asked the question ” Who knew Ralph Fiennes was a comic genius?”, but I wouldn’t have asked that. He’s a brilliant act. He has some great moments with his costar Tony Revolori. Has a few scene stealers, too… Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, and of course, Willem Dafoe who seemed to be revisiting his character from Shadow Of The Vampire, but with funnier results. And as I said in my short review of The Grand Budapest Hotel… That poor, poor cat.

So, anyway.. Bring on 2015 and Happy New Year!

Crash! Landen’s Worst 10 Films of 2014

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words with tags , , on December 30, 2014 by Crash! Landen

Happy  Holidays!  I have not posted in a  few weeks, but the end of the year is upon us which means it’s time for me to post a Best 10 Films list and this list: the Worst 10 Films that I saw in 2014.  This probably is NOT the very worst of what’s out there… Not being a paid critic, I don’t see everything that has been released like I used to. I’m a bit more selective and in the past few years I have seen fewer ‘bad’ films. This year, I have to question my own decision making since I think that I’ve seen more crap than movies that I would give a passing grade to. There were a number of films that probably could be counted here that just missed the cut. Some were surprising to me; I was extremely disappointed with How To Train Your Dragon 2, for instance (which felt like a lesser retread of the first one). The Captain America sequel was another Marvel letdown and the Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got the 4 Turtles (mostly) right, but nothing else.  Transcendence and Winter’s Tale were interesting failures (Will Smith as the Devil?!). I also saw quite a few indie.. what’s the word? Turds. ‘Turds’ is the best fitting word that I can come up… But, they were SOOOOO low budget, that it’s pointless to pick on them. ‘Don’t Blink’ and ‘Come Back To Me’ come to mind there.

But, to get on with it… Here is my list of free-time stealing bombs released in 2014.

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10. A Long Way Down Had a great premise; on New year’s Eve a depressed, albeit successful man goes to the tallest roof in London prepared to throw himself to his own death when someone else turns with the same idea… That was a good premise.. Then another person shows up and I still think they may have had something, but when a fourth person turns up, they found themselves with too many stories to tie together. Pick any two of the four (or the unfortunately named Imogen Poots and any other one except that dude from Breaking Bad) and  this could have been something worth watching.

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9. Transformers: Age Of Extinction I’m a Michael Bay /Transformers apologist, but this was WAAAAAYYYY too long for a film sequel based on a mediocre cartoon based on a toyline. I’ll admit I was in nerd heaven when the Dinobots show up… even if there was no real reason for them suddenly showing up and fighting alongside Optimus Prime at the end. Just far too long, though.

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8. X-Men: Days OF Future Past Had its moments, but I think the entire series was ruined from the first decision to include so many characters. And so many superpowered characters. Should have began with Prof. X and the original 5 X-Men (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman). To try to cram 40 years of extremely convoluted, poorly written continuity into the films is just stupid. But, what do I know. This and Transformers and Twilight and the Harry Potter films etceteramade BILLIONS, so what do I know right? That much money means they’re GREAT. Right?… RIGHT?

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7. Robocop An unnecessary, lesser dumbed down remake with someone’s politics introduced to piss off half of the audience. I have purposefully forgotten everything about this version.

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6. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Sigh. I ranted about this one. I like Garfield and Stone, but there’s just too many other things wrong with this one.

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5. Fury A very odd film that consisted of unlikable members of a World War II  tank crew with contempory cynical viewpoints and dialogue. Has one overly long BORING scene involving a woman and her daughter (if I remember correctly) that stops the film completely and turns the film down into creepy misogynist territory. It feltlike that one scene went on for an hour… And the idiocy of the finale… A tank that doesn’t roll anymore surrounded by a horde of Nazis that choose to charge the tank and fight with their fists instead of artillery… Just. STUPID. Maybe this one needs to be lower on the list. Just writing about it makes me think it was even dumber than I remembered.

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4. Maleficent Chick flick. And one of those “We don’t NEED men!” sort of chick flicks, too. I always loved the old Disney cartoons and the villainess in Sleeping Beauty was probably my favorite… When she was green. And evil. And turned into a really pissed off dragon. And was killed… here, she’s the heroine and been ‘done wrong’ by men. And the film was just boring, besides.

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3. Walk of Shame Another chick flick and it was pretty shameful. I love Elizabeth Banks. She deserves to be in better movies than this.

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2. Hercules Another case of false advertising. The trailer I saw shows Hercules battling Hydras and giant lions and other supernatural types. Hercules. Greek/Roman demi-god.  Here, though, it’s just Hercules the normal dude. All that mythology stuff is just a load of crap. Everything in the trailer is rehashed at the beginning and sneered at. So I was like “What? THAT’S WHAT I PAID TO SEE, NOT NORMAL-MAN.” It would be like going to see Superman and finding that the filmmakers have decided that he no longer flies or leaps tall buildings or is superstrong… He’s just a reporter now and he really IS from Smallville, not some ridiculous alien planet. That’s stupid, right? NO. IT’S NOT. THAT’S WHAT I CAME TO SEE.

No, I didn’t make it all of the way through.

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1. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For You would think with Eva Green being so… NAKED!… For such a prolonged time… and with Jessica Alba grinding on the floor practically every time she’s onscreen… That I would think this is my movie of the year. But, no… I do have standards and this actually bored me. The Joe Gordon Levitt subplot was asinine. Bruce Willis just took a paycheck. I felt cheated, Frankly, what with all of the various actors posing (and acting) in front of their green-screened static backgrounds. I can’t say I thought the original stories were that great anyway, but somehow, on the pages of a comic book, it somehow works better. Maybe Rodriguez and series creator Frank Miller should have tried making a real movie this time instead of a glorified motion comic with hot chicks. I’m gonna’ pass on the third installment if it ever gets made.

And that’s my list. The best 10 to follow shortly.

Independent News

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Crash! Art with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2013 by Crash! Landen

I haven’t posted in over a week, but I guess I’ve been busy. After sending in a few spec samples (here, here and here) to the publisher of the IN (a local periodical that’s been running for years), I was asked to do a cover. So, I was excited about that. They wanted something to do with gun control. I ended up being just more of an illustrator than anything else. I guess a few little ideas were mine, but I had fun doing it. I really wanted to do another Uncle Sam cover for them, that was (I think) a little more provocative, a little more dynamic and maybe a bit more ‘serious’, but you have to (try to) please whoever you’re doing the art for. That’s not always possible as I learned with that Freight Dogg design, but that’s another story.

The IN used my art on the cover and on the interior and it printed  even better than I thought it would for printing on newsprint. It probably had more to do with what they did with the art than what I did, but I have to think my past experiences with multichannel art helped a little.  I separated this in CMYK mode instead of the usual RGB to CMYK conversion. That way  I could control the percentages in each color instead of letting the computer do that. Computers don’t always know best. But anyway, here it is:

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If you’re in Pensacola, there are a lot of places that you can pick them up from like the Publix’, Food Worlds and Winn Dixies of the world. I  haven’t read it yet; just skimmed it really, but there’s usually interesting things in the IN, so I’m hoping this is the best issue ever. For me it is. Hands down.

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I also finished a few logos that i had been working on.  There was one I was pretty happy with that was for ‘Fine Line Ammo, which has some kind of serendipitous quality to it, seeing as how it involves firearms also. I did some other work for the same guy, and I think he was happy with I ended up with. He presented the sketch above for me to work towards. I did a version  that was a little more three dimensional instead of on a flat plane, but I ended up having to make some changes to it. Below is what I sort of steered him towards. The top version was essentially what he wanted, but it still didn’t look like a logo to me, so I did another.  I utilized the basic elements that he wanted while making it look more like a logo, I think. Both versions:

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I had some other notable things, too. Another comic book logo was ‘finalized’ and I’m working on a pinup for a western comic. I won’t get paid much, but it’ll be another ‘published’ feather in the cap. Here’s the thumbnail I did. I just sketched it out on the WACOM (provided by Mr. Assertive). It took literally about 10 minutes to come up with the idea and sketch it out in true chicken scratch style. It’s supposed to be my ode to both those DC comics westerns and the Bernie Wrightson DC horror comics covers of the same era that always seemed to feature kids surreptitiously witnessing some kind of supernatural beasties doing something horrible to some poor shlep that  crossed their paths.

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I still have some movie reviews to write and post, too. One of them got put aside because I was having internet problems a couple of weeks ago. But the really crazy thing is that I was actually cast as an extra in a movie that was filming here in Pensacola. The film is a ‘legitimate’ production, complete with a few recognizable actors. I didn’t get to participate as much as I wanted to, though, because I got injured (and quite sunburned). I did manage to get my mug in front of the camera a few times, so maybe they won’t leave me on the cutting room floor. I can’t say any more than that, though, without getting sued. But I can’t wait to review that one. My objectivity will surely be put to the test.

So, anyway… Back to work.

 

Killowog or Kilowog?

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Crash! Art with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2011 by Crash! Landen

I just found an error in DC’s Who’s Who Update ’87…Who knew that one Crash! Landen would pick an almost random character from those pages nearly 25 years later and find that they didn’t do their fact checking/proof reading on this particular superhero. On the cover he’s listed as Kilowog. One ‘L’. On the interior: two ‘L’s… That’s not the reason for this posting, though.

I wanted to try to do another youtube drawing using the Wacom tablet. It took like 20 times as long as it should have. It’s not just the fact that I’m still trying to get used to the WACOM tablet. I felt like eyes were upon me. I can’t think and draw that way. Drawing at an angle to make room for the camera didn’t help either.  It ended up taking me something like an hour and 45 minutes to do this one. I recorded it, so maybe I’ll turn it into a speed drawing or something… Anyway.

This is Kilowog of the Green Lantern Corps…. I believe he’s in the new film. I had never drawn him before and figured he would be easy. I picked him semi-randomly. I do like him, but figured with the Green Lantern film with Ryan Reynolds coming out, he might make a good choice to draw. Not my favorite Lantern, though, by a long shot. Maybe I’ll draw Hal, Katma Tui, Arisia, Guy Gardner or Ch’p next.

Crash! Landen’s Worst 10 Movies of 1982

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2010 by Crash! Landen

It’s definitely getting harder to make a list of ‘bad’ films the farther I go back. One tends to only watch the better, more highly acclaimed movies from the distant past. After #10 I can name some… Well… Films that weren’t exactly worthy of any Major Awards (TM), but I still wouldn’t call them ‘bad’.  Some examples are films like Six Pack, which isn’t a bad film if taken for face value, and a film that I REALLY love: Swamp Thing, one of Wes Craven’s early low budget shlocky successes. There are also comedies like Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid that might deserve to be here, but that one in particular was a Steve Martin film. Even in his worst films, he’s still funny. I recently saw an early Tim Roth film called Made In Britain that could be on the list if not for so many other atrocious films I had to choose from the year 1982. As I always say, I try to not pick on the ‘little guys’, but there are a few here that were SO malignant that it would be wrong NOT to put them on the list.

Here are my 10 along with a few that got bumped:

(Bumped) The Beastmaster ( I don’t hate this one. IMHO, it’s actually watchable. Sure it’s derivative of other films along the same genre lines as this one, but still watchable with the actors involved. Marc Singer was always a likable low budget action star and Tanya Roberts makes a decent love interest. Also featured Rip Torn and one of the stars of Good Times: John Amos. Don Coscarelli,  the film’s director and the man behind films like Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep, is a master at making low budgeters with ‘quality’ entertainment values. While this doesn’t succeed quite as much as some of his other cult hits, but it was better than most of the non-big studio stuff that was out there at the time… It’s still deserving to be on the list, though.)

(Bumped) Friday the 13th Part III (Believe it or not, I actually like this one, too, or maybe I just can’t say that I dislike it. This is the second in the series to feature the one note Jason as the killer. It’s also is the first where he dons the hockey mask to become a horror icon.  As much as 3D get a bad rap and deservedly so, this is the kind of film that 3D was made for. Sure the story is still pretty braindead and the whole production shlocky and amateurish, but as a low budget horror/slasher flick, it’s not so bad. Not the best in a crap series, but it’s far from the worst. There WERE about 175 sequels even before the remake/retooling. It went downhill from here.)

10 An Officer and a Gentleman (Whenever I think of this movie, I think of the late Chris Farley  crying ” Ah gaht no where els t’gooo” in Wayne’s World II. That’s how much I like this film. When I think of it, the first thing that comes to mind is a scene from another film spoofing it. So I guess I never think about the movie at all.).

9 Ladies and Gentlemen: The Fabulous Stains (This film did have some things going for it. Diane Lane was one of them, but  a poor use of her as an actress. maybe even a bit exploitative in the false premise of art’s sake. It also features a nearly unrecognizable Ray Winstone. Am I making it sound like a movie worth watching? Let me change that. It tries to be satire, but contradicts itself so often that whatever anti-music scene/cult of personality/exploitation point that they’re trying to make ends up just sounding confused. If you’re a White Stripes fan, this is where they got their name from. It may be interesting to you for that if you’re a fan of theirs. I’m not. There was a good bit of bad direction in the film. Some poor editing, too. )

8 Q: The Winged Serpent [First, trust me when I say that you’re not going to get anything like what’s on that poster above, painted by Boris Vallejo. This was a low budget film made by a director, that if I recall correctly, seemed to make films that cause a little ‘controversy’. This wasn’t one of them, unless your definition of controversy is: (pronounced ‘krap’) -noun, a. excrement b.an act of defecation. c. Craptacular.]

7 Amityville II: The Possession (Half as good as the original and that one was barely adequate as a low budget horror flick.)

6 Halloween III: Season of the Witch ( The entry that didn’t feature Michael Myers…)

5 White Dog (As heavy-handed in ‘message’ movies as they come. I think this caused quite a bit of controversy at the time. So much that  I think it was shelved for some years before being released. It should have stayed on the shelf…. And yes, I used a foreign version of the film poster.)

4 Nightbeast (I saw it recently… I’m not proud. So I’m picking on the little guy. SUE ME…. I did admire the attempt. There was a healthy dose of gore and some no-budget FX which was fun. Was under the Troma name so that should tell you all you should know, only here there wasn’t the typical humor.)

3 The Beast Within (Gratuitous. Illogical in places. Poorly acted in others. A low brow attempt at a high brow psychological story that fails miserably. For some reason there is an abundance of horror and sci-fi monster rapists that came out of the 1970s and early 80s. But decent schlock FX for a 1970s low budget horror movie (especially in the transformation scene towards the end, even if it does solidify the film as a geek show). This is probably a much better film than Night Beast, but that was excused a little since it was in reality an effort by amateurs. The Beast Within had a number of well known participants.

2 Grease 2 (I would rather experience waterboarding than to watch this, even if Michelle Pfieffer stars.)

1 Basket Case (Don’t like to pick on the little guy, but this is a low budgeter that I wish that i hadn’t had the misfortune to watch. And I pull for the little guy. Shlocky can be fun… see entry #6… but this was just dreary and dull. Terrible FX. Weirdly awful story. Maybe it was shooting for depravity, I don’t know. I just remembered being shocked that a movie that terrible had actually made it onto a television station, even if it was a no budget local station. Highly recommended for masochists, though.)

Worst Movies of 1988

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2010 by Crash! Landen
A good year for crap movies. The 80s was full of them. Not making the cut: My Stepmother is an Alien with Dan Aykroyd and Kim Bassinger. Dan has one that made my Top 5, though. Another sequel to a decent film (not nearly as good as Caddyshack) was Fright Night 2. Another movie without a chunk of the original crew involved. A few serious films  like Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio and the Michael J. Fox flop Bright Lights, Big City almost made the list. They were worthy. The horror film Monkey Shines… Happy to say that there were a lot of good horror films in 1988… There is one movie in particular that I would really like to put on this list, but I just couldn’t justify working it in: Bull Durham. I know what you’re thinking… No, you idiot! Bull Durham’s a GREAT film!… Well… No. No, it’s not.
I don’t care if it’s a comedy or a drama or a horror film or a musical. Whatever. If it is a SPORTS film, the actors playing the athletes must pass reasonably for an athlete. Sure, they’re actors, but if it’s a tennis movie, the actor needs to look like he/she can actually play. If it’s basketball the actor needs to look like he /she has actually played before. Football. Boxing. Ping Pong. Whatever… In the Natural, Robert Redford had a great swing. In Mr. Baseball, Tom Selleck looked like he’s played the game before. Kevin Costner does in Bull Durham. I think he played in high school as did Selleck. The problem with Bull Durham is Tim Robbins. He is the reason I cannot watch that film for any reason. I like Tim Robbins. He’s CARRIED great films. He’s a good actor, BUT… He doesn’t look like he’s played any sport, let alone baseball, EVER… In a sports movie that IS important to me. Robbins is supposed to be playing a highly talented major league prospect, but what I see onscreen is the baseball equivalent of Lamar Latrell’s javelin throwing form in Revenge of the Nerds. It completely takes me out of the film. He is never believable as a baseball player. It ruins it for me in the same way Bang The Drum Slowly is ruined by Robert Deniro (another great actor who looks as though he’s never played a sport, either… And don’t give me that Raging Bull crap. Decent film. Laughable boxing scenes)… But. try as I might, I can’t move Bull Durham into the 10th spot. It is a crap film, though.
Anyway… Enough rambling. Here’s the list of cinematic turds.
10 Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach (All of the Police Academy sequels were awful, but at the same time, they’re still funny in a dumb way. So maybe it’s a little unfair to put this one on the list).
9 Poltergeist 3 (A drastic step down from the 2nd film which was a slight step down from the original.
8 Watchers (Starred the late Corey Haim in one of the worst book adaptations ever from what I’ve read. Book or no book it was terrible and one of Haim’s worst… Which is saying a lot.)
7 Feds (Just dumb and not funny.)
6 Earth Girls Are Easy (Just too weird. Great cast with Davis, Carrey, D. Wayans and Goldbloom. Julie Brown was always likeable and entertaining but was always associated with cheesy crap…)
5 Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (Is this the one where he smacks the victim in the sleeping bag against the tree? I think so. Seen them all, but they all just blur together after the third one.)
4 Caddyshack II (Maybe the worst sequel EVER. Maybe Dan Aykroyd’s worst  performance substituting for Murray. Jackie Mason for Rodney Dangerfield is equally awful. Maybe the worst part: No Ted Knight… And then there’s Tom Arnold being Tom Arnold. he was ridin’ the Rosanne wave… And this even made the sock puppet style Gopher FX from the original look like Stan Winston FX. A prime example of a half@$$ed money grab.)
3 The Chocolate War (Mediocre book. Even worse film. Incoherent throughout. Soulless acting. Terrible cinematography. Awful dialogue. Slow. Lacks tension. Arbitrary motivations by the protagonist… I could go on. )
2 Cameron’s Closet (Like the Police Academy movies, this is kind of shooting dead fish in a barrel. This is a low budget effort with semi-pro folks working on the film. It’s always hard to put a movie like this on the list when there are equally deserving big budget dogs…)
1 Killer Klowns from Outer Space (An obnoxious film. It used to run concurrently on HBO and HBO2. I think it was on the air for like 8 years straight or something. Or maybe it just felt that way. I couldn’t get away from it.)

The Last Airbender Review (2.5 of 5)

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2010 by Crash! Landen

The Last Airbender is getting some horrible reviews, but after seeing it myself I feel that it’s undeserved or at least not to the level that it’s getting panned. 8% on RottenTomatoes.com? Roger Ebert gave it a half star. A half star!

This movie is not THAT bad. Certainly it’s not a great movie, either. It is imperfect (understatement), but as far as summer entertainments go, it was more than watchable. To say that it is anywhere near  as bad as Shyamalamadingdong’s abysmal ‘Lady In The Water’ would be a lie. It is also BETTER than recent franchise fiascos like GI:Joe, Clash Of The Titans or the abominably bad The Spirit.

I don’t want to spend a lot of space on the alleged ‘racist casting’ accusations surrounding The Last Airbender. I’d rather write about the ACTUAL MOVIE, but I’ll quote Roger Ebert.

“After the miscalculation of making the movie as live action, there remained the challenge of casting it. Shyamalan has failed. His first inexplicable mistake was to change the races of the leading characters; on television Aang was clearly Asian, and so were Katara and Sokka, with perhaps Mongolian and Inuit genes. Here they’re all whites.”

Do these characters look “clearly Asian” to you? They don’t to me, so maybe some of the casting controversy needs to be aimed more at the animators of the source material. They may be garbed in Eastern style clothing (or Eskimo clothes), but “clearly Asian” they are not. The kid that was cast as Aang (the lead) looks JUST LIKE THE FRICKIN’ CARTOON. As far as matching appearance, there may have never been a casting for a live action film that is any closer to an original cartoon source than this one. He looked like the model for the animators.

None of the other castings looked that far off, either. The characters may in fact be Asian in the cartoon, but they don’t appear to be.

Not being a fan of the series, I would not know how close they remained to the source material, otherwise. I didn’t go in with a whole lot of expectations. Quite the opposite with all of the horrendous reviews out there. What I got was mildly entertaining summer franchise fare.

The movie opens in a world where the earth is in chaos. There are now 4 basic tribes/kingdoms that all revolve around the basic elements of fire, water, earth and air.

There are no longer any ‘airbenders’ except for the reincarnating messiah like figure the ‘Avatar’ who has been absent for  a hundred years. The Avatar is a link between mankind and the spirit world. Only he is capable of manipulating all 4 of the elements and uniting mankind.

In the absence of the Avatar the warmongering Firebenders seek to dominate the others and separate themselves permanently from the spirits.

Their plans are interupted when (in the opening scene) a brother (Jackson Rathbone) and sister (‘Coca’ Nicola Peltz) free Aang, the Avatar (played by Noah Ringer) from a sphere of ice. The Firebenders see this as a serious kink in their plans. Hijinks ensue.

Throughout the film there is a lot of exposition and explaining and flashbacks and motivations spelled out and some poor story choices (like the sacrifice made towards the end, IMO). It is muddled, there’s no denying that. But it’s not impenetrable. That’s really the overwhelming negative of the film. The clarity.

Another offshoot of that was the lack of interaction between the main characters that would allow the audience to fully empathize with their plight. There was sporadic humor, but on a whole the movie lacked emotion or passion.

Could've used more of this.

I would disagree with those that say the acting and characters were completely wooden, though.

The visuals were striking. The locales and sets are impressive. The FX are for the most part well done especially the ones involving Aang.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character move so much with the nimble quality of an agile cartoon character while still retaining a toe in the real world of gravity, physics and weight.

I also enjoyed the Tai Chi style martial arts movements to denote the Avatar’s airbending prowess. He also had some tricks associated with his staff that I liked.

The Avatar’s flying steed (Appa?) was rendered in a friendly way seeming to exist somewhere between live action and the cartoon world. Every time he popped up onscreen was fun.

There were some other creatures that the folks at ILM did a great job with. There was a spirit dragon that would pop up from time to time that I would have liked to have seen more of.

There were some Dewbacks running around for Star Wars fans.

There were also a large number of FX laden action sequences. The martial arts aspect gave the film a beautifully artistic quality to it. For me, Shyamalan proved that he’s capable of  handling action sequences in a competent manner. The pace of the entire film was MUCH quicker than any other M. Night Shyamalan film (admittedly, that’s not a bold statement).

A big drawback: there was a complete lack of tension that hampered the film almost from the beginning and that’s surprising to me. Shymalan has always proven to be able to build suspense with very little. In his past efforts he sometimes evokes the style of Hitchcock, if not his genius so much. He also has a pretty good eye for the big screen.

From an artist’s perspective he really knows how to frame shots. In this, just the fact that audience knows that if the hero Aang is killed he’ll just be reincarnated to fight again lessens the stakes involved. But this WAS a distant cry to the truly awful ‘Lady In The Water’.

There might have been a little much sympathy heaped upon Dev Patel’s character Prince Zuko. I thought he did a good job, but didn’t have quite enough to do in the villainy vein.

Or perhaps a little more attention could have been paid to the Firebender ruler Lord Ozai played by the underutilized Cliff Curtis, who never gets enough praise. He’s a very underrated character actor who could play the lead if it’s given to him. Here, his character takes back seat to a subordinate officer and to his son (Patel’s Zuko).

I don’t think this was a success of a movie, but I was entertained throughout. I’ll give it the mediocre rating of 2.5 of 5 whatevers, but that’s a high 2.5. The confused way that the story was told, the lack of focus on the main characters and the lack of dramatic tension ultimately keep this from being a ‘good’ summer movie… but it’s watchable. And once again, instead of making a good film, the intent seemed to be putting out a stepping stone to the sequels with an ‘open’ ending to lead into the next chapter. The priority has to be on making a good film first.